Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 11, 2013

Keep on food truckin’

Filed under: Alameda, Business — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

So, what’s the general sense about the Food Trucks and their impact on Alameda?  According to one Planning Board member who has asked for a review of the Food Trucks at South Shore, they are hurting businesses — not inside South Shore Center — but outside the center and apparently that’s a problem.

I’ll admit, I actually have only visited the food trucks at South Shore once since they have been open.   Probably because Saturdays are a bit hectic in our household.  Between getting kids fed, practice time, and schlepping kids off to lessons, Off the Grid is a pretty distant memory.   Plus in general, we don’t eat out much because I am cheap and lazy and the thought of wrangling two kids at a sit down restaurant exhausts me.   That’s why our eating out is limited to fast casual places like Chipotle or TrueBurger (in Oakland) or when we have people taking care of our kids.

I have been around South Shore when the Food Trucks are going on and it appears that the other eating venues and retail shopping are not negatively impacted.   Still lines and a packed parking lot as usual at Sushi House.   Last weekend, we actually went to Chipotle when the Food Trucks were still in swing and there was a line wrapped through their queue and almost out the door.

Granted my own experience is pretty limited, but I would imagine if the Food Trucks were diverting traffic away from South Shore’s brick and mortar restaurants they would be shutting that operation down pretty quickly.   So I was surprised at how insistent this Planning Board member was that the Food Truck operation be brought back to the Planning Board for a review simply based on what she had been told by other retailers not in the South Shore Center.   I mean, how do you measure the impact of a business on your own business and at what point do you have to chalk it up to the free market doing it’s thing as opposed to having a government body step in to hand tie your competition?

Here’s the thing, I think Off the Grid isn’t for everyone.  It’s not really for my family because balancing a plate in my hand and trying to get food for my family isn’t an every weekend kind of thing.   But it brings something interesting to Alameda and brings the bodies to the shopping center.   Unless these other businesses can truly prove that Off the Grid is actively siphoning customers instead of — oh I don’t know — uninspired menus or something else, then they’ll probably not be able to tank Off the Grid at South Shore.

Hey, did you know that Ulta is now open at South Shore?   It’s a beauty supply shop on the ground floor where Borders used to be.   I had no idea it was even open, it looked pretty dismal in there.   There’s a countdown clock somewhere for this one closing up.



  1. I agree that food trucks are not for everyone. I have been to the events at both South Shore and Rock Wall. In both cases, I had to stand on line to order and then stand on another line to pick up my food. Seating is limited. The prices are not much less than you would pay at a sit-down restaurant. Although the quality is good, I prefer to have a more comfortable dining experience. In concept, the idea seems great but in practice–not so much. I like the idea that there are many trucks from which to choose, so everyone in your group can get what he or she wants, and you can get a taco from one truck, a salad from another, and dessert at a third, but that means standing in line multiple times as well. It turns out to be something of an ordeal where you spend lots of money and never really get a chanc to savor the excellent food on offer. It seems to be most popular with young singles and families whose kids are still stroller bound. It’s a fad that has grown out of the fact that we have culinary schools turning out legions of chefs who can’t find anyplace to work or get capital to open their own restaurants. Food trucks are a solution. As the economy improves, I think it will fade away as a stand alone event and go back to being a festival and fair adjunct.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 11, 2013 @ 7:32 am

  2. Food trucks can offer a wide variety of choices within a small area (although the ones in Alameda seem to have limited vegetarian options, the last time I checked).

    Popular misconceptions (from the perspective of a food truck operator).

    I haven’t had problems finding parking near TJ’s, but traffic can be really bad on Park St on most Saturdays!

    Comment by alameda — July 11, 2013 @ 7:49 am

  3. Interesting that somebody would say it wasn’t hurting businesses within South Shore. My wife spoke to the owner of Pearls, who was disheartened after having to close. It was very clear from the numbers he told her that the food trucks killed his business.

    Comment by Dan Wood — July 11, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  4. I don’t mind the food trucks. I’ve tried them. I find the food not that good, often pretty greasy. But then I’m starting to raise hens and a garden..and who knows a pygmy goat is likely in the offing since hens are a gateway animal to all kinds of dangerous farm creatures. I see I’m head toward “off the grid”. And that’s my point about these trucks..they’ve hijacked the “off the grid” concept. The idea of being “off the grid” is to move into sustainability and green. These trucks are “off the grid” because they avoid paying taxes. Their food isn’t sustainable. They use polluting gas. I don’t know. Am I getting too cantankerous? Maybe it’s just my opinion.

    Comment by Gabrielle — July 11, 2013 @ 10:48 am

  5. Dan, in the case of Pearls, it is always easier to look elsewhere for the blame. I ate there once, and found the food quality vs. price so poor, and the service so dismal, I never went back, and that is a first for me. i always give restaurants a second chance.

    I’ve been to off the grid a few times, and both times I have overheard folks from outside of Alameda talking about this being their first time here, and enjoying it.One time I even heard someone calling some friends in Oakland, encouraging them to come over. Bringing extra business into Alameda is a good thing. Both times I have been to OTG I have seen lines at other restaurants as well. I don’t go more often just because I dont think the food is all that spectacular, and I am usually busy doing something else on Saturdays.

    I’ve also been to the food truck festivals at Rock Wall, and went to the most recent one last Friday. The lines to get food were outrageous. The one truck I really wanted to sample was making people wait 25 minutes just to put in an order and then said it would be another 30 minutes to get the food. At that point I left and will probably never go back. To me the whole attraction of food trucks is getting good food relatively inexpensively, and quickly. If you cant handle that, then you shouldn’t be there.

    Comment by notadave — July 11, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

  6. Meh, food trucks. They’re for hipsters who don’t mind paying for overpriced food. Think about it. One hand with a drink while the other with a small plate of food. Try to find a place to sit. I really doubt these customers penetrate South Shore to shop. Once they are finished, they leave.

    Comment by Basel — July 11, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

  7. I would guess that I’ve been to a good 90% of the South Shore Off the Grid events since they opened last summer. (South Shore is about a mile and a half walk from my house, and it provides me with a pleasant bit of weekend exercise as well as lunch.) I’ve taken out of town guests, and even though food trucks are commonplace everywhere now, they’ve always been impressed by the quality and variety. The atmosphere is festive and I like the fact that I can get Indian food while my husband gets BBQ. The fact is, after a year, OtG is very popular and there are more vendors than ever before. Why would anyone want to interfere with what is obviously an extremely successful enterprise?

    Comment by trow125 — July 12, 2013 @ 6:48 am

  8. @trow

    “Why would anyone want to interfere with what is obviously an extremely successful enterprise?”

    are you not familiar with alameda?

    Comment by E — July 13, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  9. Have any of the other restaurants at South Shore been impacted by OTG? I am sorry for the owners of Pearl’s, but honestly, I went there once, and the interior was not attractive, sort of industrial, and the food nothing special. And they have so much good competition for that kind of food– Red Onion, Scolari’s, Burgermeister, just to name a few that are on the way to South Shore, that maybe it was other competition, not OTG, that did them in.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — July 14, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  10. In my personal experience, the food trucks have caused me to spend more money at other South Shore businesses than I otherwise would. I’ve been about 4 times with my daughter, only to find that there were limited food offerings for a picky 4 year old. So I’ve tended to buy food for her at one of the regular restaurants when we’ve gone, while sampling the trucks myself. If we hadn’t gone to the trucks, we would have likely just eaten at home.

    Comment by tripswithtykes — July 14, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

  11. Off the Pok grid:

    Comment by Jack R — July 15, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

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